January 5, 1996
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill Friday to temporarily send furloughed federal workers back to work and restore funding for some agencies, a major step towards ending a record three-week partial government shutdown.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill and send it on to President Clinton by the end of the day Friday. If the president approves the legislation, as expected, furloughed workers could be back at work by Monday.
The measure, which passed the House by a vote of 401 to 17, provides funding through January 26 for federal workers and some government operations, including national parks, the Meals on Wheels program for the elderly, passport agencies and veterans' benefits.
The bill puts 280,000 federal workers back on the job and resumes pay for the 480,000 workers who have been working without wages since the partial shutdown began on December 16. It also funds targeted agencies through September 30.
Democrats said they were voting for the bill only reluctantly. "This bill is good for the employees but a raw deal for the taxpayers," said Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Texas.
The bill would send many employees back to work but some would be unable to spend money by doing such things as making long-distance calls or filling vehicles with gasoline.
Many Democrats said they would oppose a second measure, which was to be considered in the House later in the day, that would fully fund all agencies.
If approved by Congress, the second measure would not take effect unless Clinton submitted a plan that would balance the federal budget in seven years as measured by the Congressional Budget Office.
Talks to work out long-term budget issues were scheduled to resume at the White House Friday afternoon. White House officials indicated the plan to end the partial government shutdown could provide a more positive atmosphere for the talks, although officials cautioned there are still major differences. Talks are expected to continue through the weekend and into next week.
Party leaders had different characterizations of the progress of the talks to date.
In a Friday morning interview with CNN, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt described the talks as productive although slow. "This is a serious good faith attempt," he said. "We are not playing games. We are not sitting in the room trying to find political advantage. We are trying to do our dead level best to get the right answers for the country."
House Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner had a different view of the White House budget talks, which have included 40 hours with Clinton at the table.
"They've had these policy wonk satires," Boehner said. "They've had a lot of discussion. There have been no real negotiations. We think it's time for action."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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